It will all come to stand in the light…everything and everybody got to stand in the light.-Aunt Ester
I went expecting to complete my personal journey with Wilson. By attending the concert reading of Gem of the Ocean, I would have completed the 10-play cycle by performing in or experiencing a performance of every decade during my lifetime. Ironically, Gem of the Ocean is the beginning…
The presence Wilson writes for his characters fills the room, especially the women. He does not shortstop when it comes to Aunt Ester. The stage directions read, “Her presence has an immediate calming effect on Citizen.” It’s not just on Citizen she has this effect, it is most everyone that enters. This house is referenced numerous times as a sanctuary and a peaceful place.
I did not plan on attending church on a Tuesday night, but that is exactly what I did. Upon the deliverance of every utterance of Aunt Ester’s words through the sanctified mouth of THE Greta Oglesby, I felt like I was in service just a few days too early for Easter Sunday. I can not tell you how many times I ( and the people around me) said an Umph, nodded my head, or waved a hand. I was a willing participant in the call and response.
Millie Langford, Greta Oglesby, and Candice Jeanine
If Aunt Ester is Mahalia’s Walk with Me, then Aunt Ester’s protege Black Mary is Bessie Griffin’s Ole Ship of Zion. Black Mary (played exquisitely by Tiffany L. Addison) might not have as many years as Aunt Ester, but she’s got experience ; rumor says she had 17 husbands. When Citizen gives that age-old woman needs a man speech. Black Mary lets him have it without breaking a sweat. Men have been taking and using for as long as she could remember .It’s not a tongue lashing, it’s simply the gospel truth.
This world was built and is sustained on the backs of strong women. The women of Gem supply not only strength, but sanctuary. By the end of the night, we all had traveled to the City of Bones and our souls were washed white as snow.
This post is part of the series #AugustWilsonCHI where I chronicle The August Wilson Celebration as a part of the August Wilson Dream Team with a focus on the women in Wilson’s work. There are only a few more performances left before the celebration is over. There are events all over the city! You do not want to miss out on being on this side of American history!
Gem w/ dir. Mark Clayton Southers and Chuck Smith